Molly's Game

Reviewed
Sun. 7/8/18
Molly's Game
3.8333333333333
Acting
4.5
4.5/5
Morality
3
3/5
Music
3
3/5
Story
4.5
4.5/5
Visuals
4
4/5
Kernel Factor
4
4/5
Molly Bloom's life is better watched than lived. Don't try it people, but watch this movie.
Reviewed By: Steven Siwek
Viewing Environment:
DVD or Streaming >27in
Viewing Crew:
Myself
Times Watched:
1
Genre:
Drama
Payment Method:
Rental/Redbox
Review:

"Molly's Game" starts off with a bang. In fact, note to self, the opening title sequence of this film is absolutely riveting. It's been a while since I've seen a movie where we are introduced to a lead character we're supposed to root for but everyone else in the film is trying to make you believe she is awful...and it actually works. This is a similar story arch in lots of movies, but the tension of "she's good", "no, she's bad" was so real for me. This high-stakes movie made me realize I sort of have no clue how the world works, and I guess I'm glad I don't need to live Molly Bloom's life to figure out how it does. I'm a huge Aaron Sorkin (writer) fan and this being his directorial debut had me interested. Not to mention, a true story with a great cast and I'm hooked. 

Acting
Jessica Chastain and I have different ways of seeing the world, but she is easily one of my favorite actresses. She always pushes the envelope (in a good way) of what the screenwriter intended. She always has high-emotion, but it feels right because she's so consistent throughout the performance. I felt like she executed the role of "Molly Bloom" perfectly. "Molly" is totally flawed but we all can see the glimmer of good wanting to break through in her. We are rooting for her under our breath the entire time. I also enjoyed the rest of the cast. Sorkin was very fortunate (since he was attached to this) with the amount of talent that showed up for "Molly's Game". Everyone did a great job. Idris Elba played a great, passionate attorney. Kevin Costner played a very believable overly competitive and verbally abusive father. Michael Cera played a famous Hollywood star who has a solid poker game. I particularly found Michael Cera's performance to be really good. I loved how characters come in and out of the story - it puts incredible pressure on Jessica's performance, but she nails it.
Morality
There are more F-bombs than I can count, so let's just say it's not a kids movie (hence, rated-R). Other than that, the morality in this film is fascinatingly shown - Molly wrestles with drugs, greed, power struggles, and everything in between. The glitz and the glamour are very soon revealed for what they are...a bluff. Ironically, I think they kept the drug usage somewhat tame. In real life it sounds like her usage of drugs is what ruined her "business", and although the film shows plenty of pill-popping, she never seems off her game or like the rails are coming off. 
Music
Music is used very sparingly and except for the faster beats, it usually didn't work for me. The montage poker playing music is probably the only time where music really shines through. Otherwise, in the words of Aaron Sorkin (from his Masterclass), "the dialogue [should be] the music". It's crazy how often there isn't even an undertone of music - the actors' movements, idiosyncrasies, and fast verbal reactions literally guide what would usually be a musical score. I liked that aspect.
Story
The narration of the movie by Jessica Chastain was a total surprise for me...and I loved it. She hits the emotion that's needed, without overdoing it. There are tons of flashbacks and flash forwards in this movie (NOT recommended for newbie screenwriters), but it almost always works in "Molly's Game". Sorkin is just that good. I actually want to look at the script of "Molly's Game" to see how this looks on paper - it seems really complex. HOWEVER, even Sorkin isn't immune to directing/writing differences. I feel like the way he wrote the ending probably worked, but the way it was performed and directed didn't land with me. The first 2/3's of this movie is perfect pacing, but the final act moves at a much slower pace and gets a little sloppy with the flashback and flash forward scenes. I think there were 10 scenes sprinkled throughout the film that were unnecessary to the story - it's long and you can sometimes tell the writer is directing the movie. Nonetheless, the story itself is so crazy that I questioned its veracity constantly toward the end. I did this because a lot of loose ends are tide up for us in a sweet bow - it almost gets a little preachy, and I certainly don't mind preachy, but it just feels a little off. Land the plane better and this is a near perfect story.
Visuals
I enjoy poker - although I don't play much. This is a movie that does a great job making a time-consuming (and potentially boring) game enthralling. You learn. You get engaged. And you can't believe the amount of money being won and lost - it's crazy. Visually, it doesn't have the unique character/feel of Sorkin's "The Social Network", but it works. I did like the ultra quick reference footage shots and ways the film "taught" poker - very cool! 
Kernel Factor
This is my kind of movie. True story, drama and mystery, great acting, intensity, business/entrepreneurship, games, and so much more. It really does have the Kernel-Factor. But, as I already said, the first 2/3's of this movie are really on a different level - I just wished they could have kept the pacing/feel as it ended. There were a couple of fatal flaws of assumptions that the movie made, which we don't see (but only hear) and it just feels like they were too lazy to film it - I'll write no more, I don't want to spoil anything. Overall, I want to watch "Molly's Game" again to catch some of the things I likely missed.